Facing your fears means becoming a better leader.
Ever since I found my purpose in life, I like to tell many folks that I feel like Superman. As soon as my eyes open every morning, an extreme sense of urgency overcomes my body to get up, own the day and make things happen.
But as you all know, even Superman has his weakness.
Public speaking has been my kryptonite for a very long time now. The first time I ever spoke in public, I suffered a severe anxiety attack. It was an awful experience and something that stuck in the back of my mind ever since. I also believed that public speaking was the main thing holding me and our company back from reaching our full potential.
The opportunity to overcome this fear came when I received a cold call one morning from the president of the Alabama Real Estate Association. He invited me to come and share the story of how I started my company, Ohio Cashflow. My mind started racing. I did my best to spit out a response, “Well, I am not a public speaker. I can be very raw and rude sometimes.”
None of it worked. I reluctantly accepted the invitation and thought that I would have to make up an excuse, as I had three months until the event to plan one. As the event started getting closer and closer, my mind started to race and play tricks on me. The thought of public speaking haunted me every evening as I tried to go to sleep.
Embrace a Mindset Shift
One day, I decided that I’d had enough. I made a decision that I had to go for it. As soon as I made the mindset shift, I quickly gathered the team and we started putting the pieces of the puzzle together in preparation for the speaking engagement. We composed an awesome presentation along with our branded company brochures and fliers. We planned every little detail extremely well, with two rehearsals beforehand. I had someone stand next to me to kick-start the presentation with a question just in case my mind went blank and I froze on stage (a similar thing happened when I had the anxiety attack).
Around 20 minutes before I took stage, I started feeling very lightheaded and anxious. I asked one of my team members to get me a glass full of ice. For whatever reason, crunching the ice with my teeth gave me a soothing feeling and made me completely relaxed. As soon as I hit the stage, it all just fell away and everything felt completely natural — from my tonality to hand gestures and even throwing in jokes to make the audience laugh.
We really rocked the house. Everyone seemed amazed with my story and related to many things I spoke about. Afterwards, we received a ton of praise, and people were even lining up to shake our hands and speak to us. I do recall looking into the crowd and receiving some weird looks like, “Who do you think you are with that back to front yellow cap and weird accent?” Taking my eye off those characters and solely focusing on someone positively acknowledging and smiling kept me on track. All in all, it was a fantastic experience and one that I am looking forward to doing many more times in the future.
Face Your Fears and Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
In business and entrepreneurship, educate yourself as much as possible on becoming a market expert. Surround yourself with key people who are smarter than you and who will always have your best interest at heart. This will minimize your risk as well as your fear of making mistakes and losing money. Don’t forget that business is easy — it’s working with the wrong people that can make it difficult. The magic truly happens when you get out of your comfort zone and stand up to pain and fear. You must be willing to acknowledge that every experience is a good experience as long as you perceive it that way. Accept failure if it does occur, re-asses and keep moving forward.
It’s the last 1-2 repetitions at the gym that grow the most muscle and the last 1-2 miles when running that improve your fitness. No pain equals no gain. The most powerful inspirations and ideas come to me when everyone has long left the office and I am in the 12th hour of a grueling day by myself with all the time in the world left to think and create. Eliminate all negativity and focus your energy on always being positive, growing yourself and your business.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image credit: CC by Nadine Dereza